BOSTON — As activists try to export same-sex “marriage” from Massachusetts, many hope a federal constitutional marriage amendment will gather steam, quick.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick says he hopes to scrap a law that bans non-resident couples from marrying here.

Although there is no federal statute legalizing same-sex “marriage,” Massachusetts is the only state to grant it, the result of a 2003 ruling by its Supreme Judicial Court. So far, the consequences of that decision have been mainly confined within state boundaries because former Gov. Mitt Romney enforced a law that stopped couples from marrying if they would be ineligible to wed in their own state.

Forty-five states have laws or amendments protecting marriage, but court challenges like those now questioning the constitutionality of a California amendment continue to push the envelope.

“Repealing the law would instantly make Massachusetts a kind of reverse Reno: the ‘gay marriage’ capital of the U.S.,” said Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

“Ultimately, ‘gay marriage’ advocates are betting that the Supreme Court will impose a national ‘gay marriage’ rule across the country. The only secure way to stop this is with a federal constitutional amendment,” she said.

The Republican Romney, now a presidential candidate, had successfully rebuffed a court challenge to the historic non-resident prohibition, but now a new bill seeks to repeal that law.

Patrick favors repeal; he basically flouted both the statute and the court decision April 2 when he ordered 26 nonresident “marriages” (performed in 2004 in defiance of the law) to be entered in state records, a move his predecessor had blocked.

Patrick’s spokesman Kyle Sullivan declined to comment on his boss’ actions other than to say, “There was no legal basis for separating these certificates in the first place. It appears like the prior administration was politicizing a routine clerical function.”

Not so, countered Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom.

“It was enforcement of this law that stopped ‘gay marriage’ from being visited on every other state in the country,” Fehrnstrom told the Boston Globe.

“What right do Massachusetts officials have to circumvent the marriage laws of 49 other states?” said Kris Mineau, spokesman for, the coalition backing a proposed Massachusetts amendment. He predicted this move could fuel a grassroots push for a federal amendment.

“Massachusetts is just a launching pad to destroy marriage through the courts because it can’t be done democratically,” said Matt Daniels, founder and president of the Washington-based Alliance for Marriage, which engineered the proposed federal Marriage Protection Amendment.

Daniels is articulate and passionate about why the measure is needed and how a new strategy could succeed.

“The premise of the whole ‘revolution’ is that the sacrament of marriage as the union of a male and female is an expression of hate and it must be stamped out under law,” he said. “That’s why this is so dangerous.

“Ultimately, it’s a race between our federal amendment and the courts,” he said. “We hope and pray we’ll have the support to reintroduce this in 2008 and pass it before the courts force the destruction of marriage on all 50 states.”

State Network

The Alliance’s goal is to organize a network of lawmakers to first pass their own state amendments, and then pass resolutions calling on Congress for a federal one. A federal measure must ultimately go back to the states for ratification, so those legislatures would still be key.

“We’re defending something that God wove into the fabric of reality. We just have to trigger that understanding in people’s hearts,” Daniels said. “Our opponents have to convince people to go against reason, logic and experience.”

Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus co-chairwoman Arline Isaacson said, “Right now our priority is defeating the state marriage amendment.”

A May 9 legislative showdown is looming on the final hurdle needed to put the measure before voters in 2008. Homosexual activists nationwide are lobbying to kill it.

Dan Avila, spokesman for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, agreed that the amendment’s fate is critical.

“If there’s no ‘gay marriage’ here, there’s nothing to export,” he said, adding, “God’s gotten us this far. It’s in his hands.”

Isaacson downplayed the significance of repealing the non-resident law.

“Even if out-of-state couples could marry here, the fact is their marriages would not be recognized in other states because most states have DOMAs on their books,” she said. DOMA stands for Defense of Marriage Act.

However, an editorial in the April 6 edition of The Pilot, Boston’s archdiocesan newspaper, cut through that argument. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley is among several Catholic bishops on the Alliance for Marriage Advisory Board.

“As more and more couples seek recognition of their Massachusetts same-sex ‘marriages’ in their home states, the chances of a challenge to the 1996 federal DOMA in the federal courts will grow,” the editorial concluded. “It’s a challenge that is likely to make it all the way to the Supreme Court and many legal experts doubt DOMA will survive the trip.

“The real possibility that Massachusetts could impose same-sex ‘marriage’ on the entire nation — again by judicial fiat — will almost certainly re-energize defenders of traditional marriage who have felt the definition of marriage was secure in their state,” the editorial continued. “A federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman will be the only clear response to this attack on marriage.”

Gail Besse writes from

Boston, Massachusetts.